When Troy Daniels came to the Timberwolves in the Corey Brewer trade last month, he talked about the opportunity he would get here.
It’s starting to happen.
In Thursday’s loss to Sacramento at Target Center Daniels played 12½ minutes — by far his most since joining the Wolves. He responded by taking seven shots, all three-pointers, and making three, including two in the fourth quarter as the Wolves were attempting to reel in the Kings.
These are not mind-blowing numbers, but they are an indication that Daniels is getting comfortable with coach Flip Saunders’ offense and could be poised to make a difference.
“He is going to have opportunities,” Saunders said after Friday’s practice. “He brings something that we lack, perimeter shooting, the ability to stretch the floor a little bit.”
The Wolves, mired in a 10-game losing streak, are last in the league in three-pointers attempted per game (14.0), three-pointers made (4.7) and are 23rd in three-point shooting percentage (33.6).
Not a team stocked with perimeter shooters to begin with, the problem has only worsened since Kevin Martin broke his right (shooting) wrist. Andrew Wiggins started the season as the starting small forward, but has replaced Martin as shooting guard.
There are signs that Daniels might be ready for a larger role.
Playing with the Wolves reserves — all of whom had positive plus/minus ratings Thursday — Daniels took all of his shots in the second half. He made a three-pointer late in the third quarter in a run that trimmed a 12-point Kings lead to four entering the fourth quarter.
In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter Daniels made two of three three-point attempts. And while he missed his final three attempts — including a long desperation attempt with less than a second left in the game, Daniels was a plus-11 during his time on the court.
Indeed, after the game ended Saunders said he wished the Wolves had looked to Daniels more. Especially members of the starting lineup.
“He does spread the floor,” Saunders said. “We still don’t know how to use him.
‘‘As I told our guys, ‘Listen, he just hit two threes. If I’m on the floor, it’s where is he? ’ You have to locate him. That’s just playing basketball.”
The Wolves desperately need someone to force opponents to defend the perimeter. Martin’s return, which appears to be not far off, will help. Backup point-guard Mo Williams has shown the ability to hit a three-pointer. Daniels is starting to show that, too.
Now the rest of the Wolves have to learn when to get him the ball. Daniels has hit eight of 16 shots with the Wolves, including seven of 13 from three-point range.
“That’s what we’re trying to get our guys to do,” Saunders said. “Not to be robots, just learn how to play. If there is a guy who can shoot and he’s hot, find him.”
Saunders is confident that will happen. Daniels has shown the ability to hit big shots under pressure; a solid performance for Houston in the playoffs last season proved that.
If he can prove to be a reliable shooter, Daniels will make things easier for the Wolves’ forwards and center Gorgui Dieng to work inside.
Daniels hit on all four three-pointers in the Wolves loss to Golden State Dec. 27, scoring in double figures for the first time with Minnesota, getting 14 points in less than nine minutes of playing time. Thursday he scored 11 points.
Chances are he’ll be getting more chances in coming games.
“My job is to shoot the ball,” he said. “If I’m open, just shoot.”